Red Bull exclusive

Red Bull exclusive: Horner tells Liberty to “decide what Formula 1 is”


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Christian Horner, team principal of Red Bull Racing, is the archetypical racer: having worked his way through the ranks from karting to F3000 (then a single step below Formula 1) via Formula Renault and F3, he switched to (own) team management at age 25, winning the teams classification in 2001, and claiming back-to-back doubles in 2002/3. In the process he moved ever closer to Red Bull.

When the drinks company purchased Jaguar Racing (formerly Stewart) ahead of the 2004 season, Horner was a shoo-in as team principal, a position he managed honourably ever since – as four double F1 titles via Sebastian Vettel attest. In the process he scored coup: Persuading Adrian Newey, arguably F1’s best-ever designer, to throw his skills into the Red Bull pot. He has stayed with Horner.

That the man from Warwickshire always was going to make it big in motor racing – albeit not as racing driver – was clear way back in 1992, when first I laid eyes on a budding Formula Renault driver. He arrived at a test session in a pristine Renault road car (a 19 if I recall correctly) with the words “Christian Horner Racing” stencilled on the door. He was immaculately attired, too.

At the time I was assisting a youngster in raising funds to make his way through the same category. He arrived in ripped denims and tatty T, driving a grubby Fiat Uno that was seldom treated to wash or vacuum. Said driver disappeared without a trace, despite having won a junior title the year before. The moral is clear…

Christian Horner, Red Bull, 2005
Horner has been in charge at Red Bull since they arrived in F1
Christian (44) and I sit in the Red Bull Racing hospitality during the final day of testing. Our interview had been scheduled for the previous day, but a meeting called, and our chat was postponed. Ever the professional, Christian offered to rearrange – even fitting the slot between other interviews I had scheduled.

We open with the thorny question of engine contracts for 2019-onwards. It is no secret that the teams’ relationship Renault has been fraught despite their 2010-13 successes. Indeed, back in 2015/6 Red Bull pushed every which way to obtain an alternate power unit supplier. Mercedes and Ferrari understandably shunned his advances, and Honda enjoyed an exclusive deal with McLaren.

In the aftermath of some acrimonious exchanges Red Bull came within a whisker of sitting with a chassis designed by arguably the best F1 car designer of all time, but having no power unit to stick in the back. The FIA subsequently introduced regulations to cover such eventualities, decreeing that teams nominate their engine suppliers by May 1 of the preceding season, failing which the governing body would step in.

Asked on the first day F1 2018 testing whether Red Bull Racing could follow sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso into the Honda fold – the Japanese company split with McLaren after a fractious three years – Horner indicated that they had the luxury of being able to choose between Honda and Renault, come August.

The French company’s team boss, Cyril Abiteboul, told the media the decision would need to be taken by May 1st. So where does Red Bull Racing stand in this regard?

“Well,” he says, “that’s different to the conversation we’ve had with Renault. Obviously they’re keen to know sooner rather than later. The reality is we have until the summer break to make a decision. Obviously manufacturers seek the earliest date, manufacturers are obviously supposed to indicate to the FIA, but as we saw last year with McLaren and Toro Rosso, it’s not a hard and fast rule.

“One way or another we’ll have an engine next year, and the great thing is that for the first time in a long time we’ve got a choice.”

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McLaren and Renault agreed terms in the wake of the Honda split, in mid-September, and as their testing niggles proved, that made for tight timing. What is Red Bull’s absolutely final deadline?

“Ideally we’d like to make that decision prior to August, but end of July is probably the cut-off,” with Horner adding that the overriding criterion would be out-and-out performance.

So no commercial considerations such as price, or a relationship similar to that which McLaren enjoyed (?) with Honda, which saw the Japanese company pump in an estimated $50m per annum in support, over and above a full package of free power units?

“Our primary goal is to first of all identify what is the best product for the short, medium and longer term. That is the primary focus; everything else is subjective for the moment…”

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Melbourne, 2007
Red Bull became Renault customers through Toro Rosso
Could RBR, as the senior team in the Red Bull family, inherit STR’s “works” engine status. There is a precedent: in 2007 Toro Rosso was persuaded to take Ferrari engines to enable Red Bull to adopt Renault power without finding itself in breach of contract.

“We’re not going to disclose contractual commitments,” Horner says cagily, “but it’s obviously good news for the crew that Toro Rosso are working with Honda. The relationship is going very well, and it gives us a front row seat to see how things are progressing and evolving.”

I suggest that there could be conflict looming given Red Bull’s recently announced title sponsorship deal with Aston Martin and the Honda’s NSX sports car, which is priced at Aston Martin’s entry price point, but Horner is adamant they compete in different areas. Fair enough, if all parties see it that way.

“We’ve seen Honda enjoy (that word again…) a relationship with McLaren for the past three years,” the implication being that certain models in McLaren’s sports car range is priced similarly to the NSX. “Aston Martin are very aware in our thought process, and what our options are. They’re supportive of us having the best power unit and the most competitive package possible.”

Talk of Aston Martin provides the perfect opportunity to switch to the subject of post-2020 engines. The British sports car maker is known to be investigating an F1 engine subject to suitable pricing, timing and specifications. What are the chances of Aston Martin’s wings appearing on the tappet covers rather than simply the airbox?

“I think we’re getting very tight now, and I think for me in the next month or so there needs to be clarity [on the direction of the regulations]. We’ve got a couple of manufacturers that look like they’re sitting on the fence, eager to come in, whether it be Aston, or rumours of Porsche as well.

“Like all these things it depends on the rules, and this is where I think [commercial rights holder] Liberty [Media] are quite clear on what they want to do. They need to find alignment with the FIA, and then it needs to be communicated quickly because otherwise we’re going to run out of time.”

Is there still enough time for Aston Martin to do an engine?

“Just. Another couple of months and you’re out of time.” F1, take that as a warning.

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The word in the paddock was that Liberty CEO Chase Carey – he of the glorious moustache – had visited all teams (or at the very least held meetings with some) during the winter break to discuss commercial terms for the post-2020 period, when current covenants expire. Apparently Chase committed to tabling Liberty’s offers by end-March, so did the American visit Red Bull Racing, too?

Horner circumvents the direct question, but offers his take on the situation.

Christian Horner, Chase Carey, 2017
Horner on Carey: “I feel a little sorry for Chase”
“I feel a little sorry for Chase,” he says. “I think he’s got a clear idea in his head, but he’s trying to get all his planets aligned, which is proving to be quite a bit harder than he probably envisaged. I think maybe he’s better picking them [the various discussion points] off one by one, rather than trying to group the whole thing together.

“It’s a huge package; commercial [contracts], [sporting and technical] regulations, all of those elements together for 2021. And, of course, his biggest pressure point is the timing of the power unit.

“We’ve all got agreements until the end of 2020, commercially, and the regulations are fixed ‘til then. On the chassis you don’t need as much time, or notice, to change, but the big lead-time item and the big-ticket item is the engine, which is screaming for an answer.”

Is the counter-argument not, though, that the entire package needs to be tabled together given that the regulations affects costs, and costs affect the level of revenues demanded by the teams?

“Yes, [but] I think the problem is that we’ve got some people playing for time; it’s very easy to tie it to commercial to buy time,” he says – an obvious dig at Mercedes and Ferrari, who are pushing for the status quo to remain.

“I think the best that Chase can do is set out his stall, no matter how unpopular it is, whether with the teams, the FIA, whatever, but say ‘This is what our vision for Formula One is, this is what we want to do, if you don’t want to be part of it, look at something else’.”

I try again: Had he given you a date of 31 March, or end of first quarter?

“No, I think the next Strategy [Group] meeting [on 17 April] is going to be a litmus test in terms of what they’re going to do.”

As one would expect from a true-blue racer, Christian is known to have firm ideas about the direction should be taking, so I pose the question: What is your vision for post-2020?

“For me, I would look at what is the DNA of Formula One that gives it the appeal to the huge fan base that it’s had throughout the world, and will refresh the interest of people that have followed the sport previously, but become a bit disillusioned with it. And also encourage the next generation of sports fanatics.

Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Circuit de Catalunya, 2017
F1 needs a “gladiatorial aspect”, says Horner
“I think you have to go back to the point of ‘What is sport?’ It is entertainment [we subsequently agree that the entertainment requires a high level of human endeavour]; it is there to entertain the public, and Formula 1 historically has been about exciting cars, gladiatorial drivers, and the drivers need to be the heroes, the icons.

“So I think if you go back to those principles and try and create a formula that promotes the drivers as the heroes, where there is competition, the cars are exciting, loud, fast, challenging. And then of course the promotion of that fits around what the product is.”

Christian is in full flight, hardly pauses for breath. Then he stops, as to though to stress what comes next:

“But the most important thing is to get the product right. I think Formula One is really at a crossroads because the world is changing rapidly. We see electrification, we see autonomous cars, we see the motoring world over the next 10 years is going to change enormously.

“I think Formula One needs to decide what is it. Is it a technology forum, or are there elements of technology there but fundamentally it’s about good, hard, fast racing? Escapism in many respects… because otherwise if you follow the technology route, we’d get rid of combustion engines, we’d probably even get rid of the driver.”

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I throw Roborace, the autonomous racing concept headed by former F1 / WEC driver Lucas di Grassi, into the conversation: Has Christian seen it?

“I haven’t, but I’ve heard of it. You know, will my children actually need to drive a car when they become of an age? So I think there’s some fundamental questions of which route the sport is going to go. And I think for me Formula E fills that technology route perfectly.

“Formula One needs to be true to its original principles of man and machine. It needs to be a combustion engine, it’s got to be loud, it’s got to be fast, it’s got to be exciting. There’s got to be a wow factor about it. The first time I saw a Ferrari V12 go screaming past at Woodcote corner, it made the hairs on [my] neck stand up.”

Start, Formula E, Mexico City, 2018
Should F1 leave the technology to Formula E?
Christian’s vision is of the drivers doing things mere mortals would not even attempt, let alone fail at:

“You’ve got to have that feeling, when you see that car. And the cars are starting together. You go and stand at turn three or turn nine [at Catalunya], that’s seriously quick. But the problem is it doesn’t show. If you added in the noise again, then that’s another element. The problem is, the cost that it’s taking us to achieve that.”

All easier said than done, so how to do it?

“Having laid out that’s the criteria we want to achieve, and they’ve got one of the best guys in the business in Ross [Brawn, Liberty’s managing director of motorsport], and he’s assembling a good team to say ‘Give me that package’.

Cost is a big element of it, you’ve got to contain the costs. The costs are getting disproportionate to all of the teams in Formula 1, and the business model needs to be more sustainable and costs need to be controlled. It’s fairly crazy that top teams are knocking on the door of a thousand people just on the chassis side.

“I think in Ross they’ve got the right guy to spec that car out, given the guidelines from Liberty to say ‘This is what we want’.”

With Christian Edward Johnson Horner’s deep-rooted passion for F1 he knows that is what the fans want, too.

Follow Dieter on Twitter: @RacingLines


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51 comments on “Red Bull exclusive: Horner tells Liberty to “decide what Formula 1 is””

  1. Shaun Robinson (@)
    14th March 2018, 12:23

    So basically… U-turn on the 2017 regs

    1. Something like it yeah @robinsonf1, though I doubt that’s what Horner wanted to convey. I personally am not screaming for V12 back, and I do really like the level op technology of these engines.

      I am also sceptical of Horner/Newey’s effort to make it all about the aero/chassis, possibly with only a small amount of simulation, and no wind-tunnel allowed, as it seems too precisely targeted at their own perceived strengths, which makes me read his digs at Merc/Ferrari as quite hypocritical. At the same time, I do think that it would be good if the chassis/aero guys also are recognizable names (X in the car built by Y – both ‘gladiators’ in their own field), and for that, we do need something like what Newey proposed. Oh, and perhaps just allow active suspension, so that all the complicated suspensions can be reduced.

    2. Well, nobody really wanted more downforce but they added it anyway.

      1. That’s true but in this case ‘they’ is not Liberty. The process for the current dimensions of cars was decided by the big 4 teams in the BE era. This is what Liberty has on their hands right now, and they are not willing to make knee-jerk decisions to change that which would only benefit the top 4 and leave the lesser teams unable to adapt. Stability is important for now, even if processions may be the result…for now. Let’s see if the tires help, but ultimately I envision the next major change for 2021 to include less aero downforce cars, with rear wings that will create less wake, and with more floor emphasis for ground effects, but that will take a ground up restoration, with teams having two or three years to prepare for, once the new direction is decided.

        1. @robbie I appreciate you roptimism re a move towards ground effect and awa from wings. But that was touted for 2009 (originally 2008) and it never happened. It was touted again for 2014 with the move to hybrids, but it didn’t happen. Then it was touted for 2017, and once again, it didn’t happen. It’s a ubject that lots of people talk about but nobody seems willing to commit to.

          Also, I would sujjest applying the principle of cui bono when you think about this. It seems like most of the noise about ground effect has come from teams who have much to gain from a very large change to the aero regs.

          1. @mazdachris Oh for sure you’re right, and I’m speaking in real generalities, but I also question the level of motivation of the teams in the BE era re aero, as in…there was none. Up to and including today, it is still the top 4 teams who were given the bulk of the say by BE, who haven’t needed to do anything other than spend spend spend on aero because it is engrained in them. And I don’t think they will have all that knowledge and ability taken away, but I think the new direction should include technical regs that will force the teams hands to work somewhat with aero, somewhat with ground effects and the floor and diffuser, but all with less dependence on clean air and with cars that will make less wake. I envision rear wings the shape of which we have never seen before on an F1 car for example. It’s just that up until this year’s cars the teams have not been forced to change their aero ways. We and they all know it is the enemy to closer racing but it is a science they have been allowed to expand and it does make the cars go faster…just not close together.

            I think with the discussions taking place for the future the teams will be willing to commit to changes because they will have to, at a minimum due to the new bosses in town, but because there simply needs be overall changes as you have well spelled out, for the overall health of the sport. 4 teams having the say and sticking with what they know and want for themselves is not for the overall health of the sport, and Brawn gets that. Things just need to change in a deliberate and well thought out manner so teams will have the least to complain about and all of them be happy to proceed in a new exciting era.

          2. @robbie You know one of the funny things, though; it’s not actually in the big teams’ interest to preserve the status quo. If you look back over the timeline of F1, and measure th average spread of laptimes from fastest to slowest on the grid, you’ll see that it’s during periods of stability of the rules that the gap from fastest to slowest has been as its smallest. Because during these periods, thanks to diminishing returns, the big teams lose the ability to continually add big chunks of performance to their cars, and the smaller teams will have the chance to catch up having found god solutions for their cars. If big teams want to stay in front, they should be in favour of continual reinvention of the formula, because they have the resources to continually build the best cars.

            Here’s the contradiction though – there’s a difference between close performance and good racing. In 2008, at the end of a long period of rules stability, the championship was as close as it has ever been, coming down to the last lap of the last race and won by a single point. And yet while the following year, thanks to a major rules change, the performance spread was bigger, the amount of overtaking was significantly higher. There’s no direct correlation between performance spread and on-track battles. It’s just a factor of uncertainty. And I don’t think there’s any kind of magic bullet that can be applied – if it was straightforward, it would have been done by now. I’m not an aerodynamicist; I don’t have the answers, unfortunately. But as I say – cui bono – don’t let the teams put forward suggestions because inevitably they are only interested in their own positions.

          3. The thing is in current formula it is not possible to catch up. You can build a better chassis than mercedes or ferrari but unless you are an engine builder you won’t be able to compete. In the V8 era it was possible to compete with 3rd party engine. Even if you did not get the last piece of performance from the engine (because you are not the factory team) you were still close enough that building a better car meant you could win. And because the engines were cheaper and made smaller portion of the team budgets you had more money to build better car.

            With the hybrids the whole landscape has changed when you have teams like force india and williams who have massively benefitted from lucking into the right engine contract. Williams especially had a dream season in 2014 when they had a good driver and the best engine. Had it been renault in the back of the car and they would have not finished where they did. Had it been renault engine then williams might be a bankcrupt company. It is not just ferrari and mercedes who want to keep the status quo. You also have williams who is very keen to keep their engine advantage.

            And the worst of it is the constant engine cheating. The same teams that control the sport are the biggest cheaters.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    14th March 2018, 13:09

    Obviously he will suggest things that benefit RBR as will all team bosses for their respective teams. He hit the nail on the head though when he said Chase should tell the teams “This is what our vision for Formula One is, this is what we want to do, if you don’t want to be part of it, look at something else.”

    F1 has been crying out for someone (not Bernie) to do this for years and it’s the only way you’ll haves a fair set of regs that work for all teams – not just the manufacturers.

    1. I agree and Carey and Brawn have been floating ideas for all to consider so that they can all be on the same page as much as possible, and yes at a certain point in time they will say, ok, here’s the new direction. I think it’s all good. Not everyone is going to be entirely happy about absolutely everything, and that was never going to happen anyway and they know that. But at least everyone is being included, not just the top 4 making the decision for all the teams, which is what BE handed them the power to do.

    2. I agree, @petebaldwin

      Further, with Brawn in Liberty, we can expect that vision to be technically coherent and meaningful (quite unlike “OK, let’s turn on the sprinklers”).

  3. I still look back fondly and the seemingly simple aerodynamics of a 2009 F1 car. That Brawn is still my favourite car of recent years. But people working in F1 can’t unlearn the tricks of the trade. They won’t be motivated by simple aerodynamics and working on basic engines. Will there still be a passion in the garages if there are spec parts, like floors or front wings?

    F1’s problem is the success and ingenuity of the people that make it. It has always been bleeding edge. And to be on the crest of that wave, you need money.

    I’m not sure there can be an “affordable” F1 while retaining its DNA. Better money distribution? Definitely. But not a sport filtered down to the lowest common denominator (be that uncompetitive teams or less powerful PUs).

    So something will have to give. I, like Horner, feel sorry for the person who has to make that decision then stick with it, regardless of outcome.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      14th March 2018, 16:32

      That is a good point. If you massively simplify everything, the top guys in their respective fields will move on. Why pay for a top aero or engine guy when Dave from Kwik-Fit is competent enough to bolt on and operate the various spec parts…..

  4. I tend to agree with (allegedly) Mercedes and Ferrari here. Leave the current engine alone, the longer it is in place, the cheaper it will become to customers. Liberty faces no shortage of other issues that need sorting and they should apply time and effort to that, before more teams go bankrupt.

    1. @gpfacts I agree. If you leave the current engine rules alone cost’s will come down, Technology will improve which will make aspects of the hybrid system’s (Battery’s for instance) lighter & more powerful & perhaps most importantly for those who want closer competition the performance of the various manufacturer’s will converge (As is already starting to happen).

      If you change formula, Or too much of what we have now then you force R&D/Development paths to change which will do nothing but incur additional cost’s & make everything spent to date basically pointless. And again for those who want closer competition you also introduce the chance that somebody will again find an advantage that will take the others time to close.

  5. I think f1 can be technological showcase without the road car engines. It is perfectly possible to create a truly fast and advanced race cars without having to put heavy and uncompetitive hybrids or electric motors in them. Even if electric cars will happen once the battery tech is developed enough. And just like hybrids it doesn’t need to be faster or better than what we had previously. All we need is some manufactueres whining loud enough and full electric it is. And once it happens they have the dollars to sell the new image to the public. The hybrid engines is a clear sign of that kind of direction.

    In a way it is a shame that all of the tech is simple lumped together. Electric cars, hybrid fuel saving engine and self driving cars. While electric and hybrid engines are just powertrain options the self driving cars is a totally different kind of concept that has nothing to do with the others. You can have self driving v12 screamers just as you can have self driving 2 stroke diesels or fully electric cars.

    Self driving cars is totally different kind of problem. For it to happen we would need massive change in how people watch sports. In the past there have been racing series for example which don’t have any kind of driver’s championship. Only teams’ championship. Those did not do well. People want to see people doing things and win things. Even in f1 when it is 95% about the car and 5% about the driver the 5% is the only thing most people car about. Self driving cars in everyday life could change that perception and it could happen very quickly. Once people get used to sitting in cars instead of driving and get used to the idea that nobody drives cars it is possible that the interest in motor racing moves from driving to designing cars. It sounds crazy that it could happen. But at the same time people have not forgot how to cook or enjoy real cooked food despite the fact that you can buy all foods ready at supermarkets and throw it into microwave when you get home.

    And it is not like a V12 engine for example is prehistoric tech. Using modern tech you can make a modern v12 which is very different from the 90s engines. Using different valvetrains, fuels and exhaust you can still make technically ground breaking stuff without having to make the cost skyrocket, make the things so electronically controller and make the cars weight go ridiculously high. And there are other things in the car that can be used to drive tech. Some form of active suspension and active aerodynamics is one such area.

  6. Btw, great interview @dieterrencken thanks.

    1. @robbie – agreed, what made F1F great were the various analysis and opinion pieces, and that has only increased and improved this year, along with the renaming.

    2. 👍👍

    3. Agreed. I appreciate how you treat Christian with respect, when many don’t on here. This is something I have noted you extend to other members of the paddock who are generally ridiculed online. Erricson id one that springs to mind.

      Love the background insight and anecdote too, makes for a great read!

      Thanks Dieter.

      1. I agree as well. The independant perspective, and having been so deeply involved with the sport for that long, adds great depth to all of your articles. What an asset you are, Dieter.

        1. 👍 Bram

  7. Lowering costs, bringing back the loud soundtrack (sound of wasted energy), bringing back the gladiator days of the past, all sort of go hand in hand in using old cheap spec V8s with super chargers with no fuel limits.
    The only way this is going to happen is when Merc and Ferrari are settled and comfortable in another road relevant series, with an eventual accepted image, such as Formula E. Formula 1 can then go to privateers with dirt cheap basic engines that become a major part of the show again. The drivers will look like gladiators again to a point as the engines will barely have an advantage between suppliers.

    Horner seems to want to have his cake and eat it though. They will all still crave the glamour and sophistication of Modern F1, yet Monster Truck type engines and noise are anything but.
    Nothing much is going to change whilst the big manufacturers have the cash to wave around. They are competing in F1 to ultimately sell ever increasingly more impressive performing and agressive looking products to egotistic males. These are companies btw who cheat the EU noise regualtions on their road cars.
    At least Horner realises the world is changing very fast, although it’s probably even faster than anyone in F1 realises. F1 has to accept that bringing back ‘The Past’ will mean having niche product. Take it or leave it.
    Personally I’d rather not go back to having the loud exhaust noise papering over the cracks again, but maybe a younger generation might fall for it.

    Formula Thunder 5000 is trying to cover the niche for monster loud cars.

    I can’t see them filling stadiums though. To me they just overwhelm the senses and leave little room to enjoy and wonder at any racing that might be put on offer. I’m sure they could draw some crowds just having parade laps of different engine types and sounds. If this became popular then they wouldn’t end up down the safety sanitization path that has also affected ‘the show’ compared to the past. Horner doesnt mention much about the gladiators with the risk/danger element back then.

  8. A bit contradictory to focus on the DNA of Formula 1 to shape the future of the sport, and diminish one of the fundamentals that was always present, technological development.

    For me it would lose some of the appeal if the cars start to use outdated tech, they already aren’t at the forefront, and usually that wasn’t the case.

    But the rule book is so restrictive nowadays there is barely space for innovation. They don’t let them experiment with fuel, with different engine configurations. We used to have different manufacturers presenting different solutions, why can’t we see combustion vs hybrid vs electric? Wouldn’t that be better? What if the best racing car possible is hydrogen fuelled with an electric motor?

    The powers of F1 talk about the future, but they come up with rules for the present, and tomorrow that will be the past already.

  9. I like Horner and his plain speaking. I hope in years to come, he’ll follow a path like Brawn and get involved in the administration, because I think F1 (and motorsports in general) needs more racers and fewer businessmen.

    But for saying that, I think F1 faces so many challenges right now. It stands at a crossroads, scratching its head and struggling to decide which path to go down. The issues affecting the sport are myriad – you have falling attendences at certain veues (but not all), you have reduced viewership in a large number of markets, you have teams struggling to pay the bills, you have technical rules decided by the competitors who are eager to maintain a competitive advantage. At some point, as Horner says, F1 needs to decide what it is, from a technical standpoint. But also, within that technical standpoint, there’s the need to manage costs, the need to maintain (or ideally improve) the level of competition amongst teams. You need to make the product appealing, you need to decide whether you want it to be accessible, or exclusive – trends would suggest that the Ecclestone move towards exclusivity has, while making certain individuals very rich indeed, harmed the long term viability of the sport.

    So lots of different issues, but also, none of which exist entirely in isolation. A change here may influence a decision there. Holistic thinking is required; a complete vision for what F1 will look like a decade from now. Sure, the sexy stuff like engines and aero concepts, but also media coverage, sponsorship arrangements, commercial agreements. What does an ideal F1 look like if you designed it from the ground up? What are the successful models out there? How does the current format of F1 move towards that ideal?

    Huge challenges. And continued obfuscation and political wrangling from the teams only serves to harm that work. As Horner says, Liberty need to have the stones to simply say – this is what F1 is going to be. This is what our commercial agreements will look like. Join or leave, your choice.

    1. Well said, and I think the teams get that. I think that all you have said is being considered and is in the works. And they won’t nail everything in one swoop. There will be bumps along the way, but in general, F1 is still an awesome entity with a massive audience, and tons of potential. I think the right people are in charge now to affect the changes in a well thought out manner. Will it be perfect? No that would never be reasonable to expect. But will it be much improved? I think so. There’s the question of what will F1 look like in 10 years, but also the question of things like social media and what that will look like in 10 years, which will be different from now, which is different from just 5 years ago. So it will always be a work in progress, like all businesses.

      1. @robbie In the end by definition it must be a compromise, and not necessarily one that we’ll all appreciate. Part of the challenge is how to cultivate mass appeal. Who are the core customers here? Do the casual crowd want the same thing as the hardcore fan, and what even is a hardcore fan? Just look through these forums, with comments comprised from people who might all describe themselves as die-hard F1 fans, and yet even amongst us lot, there is no consensus. Does a British F1 fan enjoy the same things as a US F1 fan? Or a Japanese fan, or a Spanish fan? Appealing to one person inevitably means alienating another. What if the future of F1 lies with fans who are looking for a flashy US style show? What if the fan-boost concept turns out to be the best route to mass appeal? Will it still be the sport you and I want to watch? Will Liberty care? The viability of F1 as a commercial venture must inevitably be the single most important consideration.

        1. @mazdachris Absolutely. You’re posing questions that are very hard to answer or else it would be a no-brainer for F1…for all kinds of entities trying to do the right thing for their future.

          I think my ‘simple’ short answer would be that they must make the product on the track better by having closer action and the feeling that the drivers are performing a great feat. That way young and old, new and die-hard nostalgic fans will be enthralled at a great show. If it takes gadgets to do that, then they still don’t have it right. But for sure you are right, if it needs to become hokey and tacky for the masses to watch, which I doubt, then they will lose many fans too. I think they will find a good balance and for the next change at least, they’ll get a little more back to enough basics that the racing is at least closer and less predictable, and with no DRS. Then they can take it from there once they see what factors are affecting their audience, and what is it’s growth.

          1. @robbie I mean this seems like common sense, right? Make the racing closer, battles more exciting, then more people will tune in and watch. Nobody could possibly dispute that. Right?

            So why was the viewership higher when Schumacher was winning race after race, while half the pack circulated in the Trulli Train with the only hope of improving your position being the moment you choose your one mandatory pitstop? When the live race coverage was frequently interrupted with ad breaks and there was almost no hope of a British driver getting on the podium, let alone winning.

            Hard questions to answer, absolutely, and I really want to drive home this point. There are no simple answers to any of these questions; no quick fixes or easy wins. This is why the whole thing needs looking at, root and branch. Decide who is the customer. What’s the appeal. How broad the reach. What’s the price point. The Ecclestone era was defined by the peddling of easy answers, with knees that hardly ever stopped jerking. That’s the reason why F1 is such an amorphous, indefinable monster today.

          2. @mazdachris Hmm ya…different era though in that the audience was larger in the 90’s and earlier 2000’s in general, but then the audience did start to diminish the more Ferrari dominated and the more for example their one-rooster from race one concept meant not only that a Ferrari was going to win, but almost always it would only be MS.

            I think too, that we must remember the global economy took a big hit in 08 and I still think it got changed and hasn’t been the same since. Media has changed hugely too. And people spend an inordinate amount of time looking at screens.

            A constant work in progress.

  10. That opening paragraph!!!
    A kid who clocks up a junior title the previous year is dismissed as rubbish and “disappears” because he turns up to a meeting in jeans and a “grubby” fiat uno that he didn’t wash……

    “The moral is clear…”, says the author.

    Yes: a superficial, crass, and plain stupid way to assess the potential of a young driver.

    1. I guess you’re referring to the fourth paragraph, not ‘That opening paragraph!!!’ ?

      I don’t recall writing that said kid was ‘rubbish and disappeared’ BECAUSE he turned up in tatty gear and drove an unwashed car; merely used his appearance to convey attitude – which differed diametrically from Horner’s. One was able to gain sponsorship and continue up the ladder; the other not, and I know why.

      This occurred back in the early 90s, when the corporate world was unforgiving about such issues – and Horner recognised that.

      1. Thanks for responding Dieter, but the guy in question is a driver who has clearly proved he had potential.

        We all have DIFFERENT talents. He is not a managerial type like Horner, obviously. He deserved a chance and a neatly polished and dressed wheeler dealer like Horner to get behind him and manage his progress.
        Who knows how far he might have gone? Sorry if I missed some part of your argument…..

  11. Excellent article. Thank you.

    1. Agreed, the series of exclusives coming through are top notch. Long may they continue!

      1. Second that! Looking forward to more great work throughout the season. Thank you for this one!

  12. I sort of disagree with Horner on one point, the sport´s purpose is not to entertain the public, it is to have a race and see who is fastest. The public watching this is a by product, an important one but it is still not the point.

    If you go back the the sports roots, it was a bunch of eccentrics tuning their cars to go fast, finding somewhere to race them and then having a race. That people started going along to watch was a byproduct which was then progressively exploited for profit until it emerged where we are today as a pure marketing experience designed only to make money. This peak in profit driven policy hopefully ended with the Ecclestone regime.

    Now the task is a tough one, Liberty have to unpick it until they can reach a point where the racing is pure again but they can still themselves make some money out it.

    By backing and strengthening core markets and exploiting new markets such as the US and South America, this should be totally doable but they will also have to tackle the rise of manufacturer teams holding all of the cards including the power of veto (by threatening to pull out if they do not get their way).

    Haas have to succeed if this is to happen. It does not look as though Haas is going to succeed though, they have hardly made an impact or a name for themselves as yet.

    We need a batch of independent teams able to compete with the manufacturer teams but we know that the suggested costs caps are not the answer, so what is?

    1. I sort of disagree with Horner on one point, the sport´s purpose is not to entertain the public, it is to have a race and see who is fastest. The public watching this is a by product, an important one but it is still not the point.


      People both in & outside of F1 need to remember & consider that. I never started watching F1 or MotorSport in general because it was designed to be entertaining….. I started watching & got hooked because as a 5 year old kid I found the Speed & performance alluring & I stayed hooked because I appreciated the skill & bravery of the drivers as well as the technology been showcased & at times the close racing/REAL overtaking on offer.

      The more the SPORT (Not just F1) has started to gravitate towards entertainment the less i’ve actually found I like it, Especially when the pursuit of that has included silly & artificial gimmicks.

      1. Matt and @stefmeister +1

        The unspoken direction that Horner wants, as is his self-interested right, is some sort of glorious loud ‘n cheap global spec series wrapped in the F1 mystique where his corporate master gets the best bang for his marketing buck.

        Entertainment is a byproduct of the technical pinnacle of F1. And as stated above, the skill of the world’s best drivers (and some of the best backed not quite as skilled drivers).

    2. “I sort of disagree with Horner on one point, the sport´s purpose is not to entertain the public, it is to have a race and see who is fastest. The public watching this is a by product, an important one but it is still not the point.”

      It’s a fair enough point, but you have to concede that if the public isn’t watching at all and it’s two men and a dog then the race will be an entirely different kettle of fish anyway.

      On a complete tangent, is there actually any Roborace to see yet? Have they managed a race?

  13. Andrew Purkis
    14th March 2018, 17:14

    dump the hybrids

    bring back the NA screemers

    thats it

  14. Good interview. But I would have liked to read Horner take on Ricciardo. It seems to me that Red Bull is once again in the way of losing its best driver because of the overvaluation of the new kid (Max). Like they did with Ric over Vettel in 2014.

    1. Don’t think they’re overvaluating verstappen, nor that ricciardo is their best driver.

      He’s certainly good and can probably take the fight to vettel in the same team, but I think verstappen is something better, faster and more aggressive, sometimes it doesn’t pay off, but with experience he should be involved less in those crashes too.

  15. If F1 doesn’t get its act together it will die and a series like FT5000 will take its place.
    I for one am a fan of the FT5000 concept. F1 is loosing itself in the complicated engines, too much down force, no overtaking, awkward tire selections etc… Primadonna no access teams and drivers.

  16. What a screwed up mess! Trying to figure out what F1 should be? I feel sorry for all involved.

    Thank god for IndyCar.

  17. Liberty: “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

  18. The minute people decided that Formula 1 is entertainment, and not sport, is when the fans’ interest in it declined. F1, with regards to its fans, needs to stop behaving like those parents who try to speak in YOLO lingo to get with Gen X. The old F1 was fun and entertaining because fans were secondary to the sport itself. Innovations like the Brabham fan car, carbon fiber McLaren and ground effect, among others, were the reason that fans tuned in to watch F1. In trying to woo fans by regulating the rules too much, F1 has achieved the opposite of the desired result.
    They need to loosen up a bit, have different specs available to let teams have the freedom to choose what is economically, technologically and commercially viable for them. Let them choose which type of engine they want. Maybe some will run a V4 and some will run a V12. it could be extended to other areas of design too, possibly creating an incentive for manufacturers. F1 has always been about innovation, and honestly, to a normal person who doesn’t look at CAD drawings everyday, ‘creative bargeboard design’ being the sole innovative factor in the design isn’t an entertaining prospect.

  19. I think Formula One needs to decide what is it. Is it a technology forum, or are there elements of technology there but fundamentally it’s about good, hard, fast racing? Escapism in many respects… because otherwise if you follow the technology route, we’d get rid of combustion engines, we’d probably even get rid of the driver.

    This says it all for me. If there was nothing else to consider, I would give that statement one big fat hug. But can F1 be the pinnacle of motorsport and retain the big manufacturers without it being road-relevant?

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